College could face further fees for car-sharing program

Allegheny College’s contract with Zipcar, a vehicle-sharing program that began on campus on Sept. 13, sets a monthly guaranteed revenue to Zipcar of $3,000, according to a preliminary copy of the contract obtained by The Campus.

If the revenue does not meet $3,000, the college will pay the difference between the minimum guarantee and the real revenue.

The cost to rent a Zipcar, according to an email from Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Kimberly Ferguson to the college community on Sept. 11, is $7.50 for an hour and $69 for a full day.

We didn’t know if the interest would be there, especially because 50 to 60 percent of the student population has cars, which means everyone would know someone who has a car.

— Alexia Porche

Ferguson said that in the ten-day span from Sept. 13 and Sept. 22, Allegheny utilized Zipcar enough to cover 27 percent of the monthly guarantee.

The contract states that the college will pay the difference between the guarantee and revenue each “calendar quarter,” or every three months of the agreement. Ferguson said Zipcar removes the cars from campus during the summer break, when students are not on campus.

Allegheny Student Government Senator Alexia Porche, ’19, said Ferguson reached out to ASG over the summer regarding the implementation of a Zipcar program on campus. She said Ferguson wanted to use student government funds to pay for the potential monthly cost.

Ferguson wrote in an email to members of ASG that 50 percent of the potential cost could come from ASG’s budget, with the other half of the cost coming from elsewhere in the budget.

According to Porche, members of ASG voiced their concerns in an email chain involving Ferguson.

“The concerns were, mainly, the price, and that it wasn’t exactly feasible for ASG to pay for it and maintain,” Porche said.

Ferguson said the responses to her request were varied.

“There were some of the people on ASG who thought it was a great idea,” Ferguson said. “There were other people on ASG, mostly the people who handle the finances, who remembered a time when there wasn’t enough money to cover such, and they thought that maybe we could look at other options.”

Porche said another concern of ASG was the interest of students in the program.

“We didn’t know if the interest would be there, especially because 50 to 60 percent of the student population has cars, which means everyone would know someone who has a car,” Porche said.

Ferguson wrote in an email that 860 students out of “around 1950” students on campus had a parking pass. That amounts to approximately 44 percent of students having a school parking pass.

According to Ferguson, prior to selecting Zipcar, the college inquired about other vehicle-sharing options. She said car2go was “the only one” willing to provide more information to Allegheny, and Enterprise, a vehicle rental service, was too expensive for the college.

According to car2go’s website, the program charges 41 cents per minute, $14.99 per hour and $84.99 per day to those using the vehicles. The website says there is no annual fee for users.

The college cleared space in its budget for the potential cost of the Zipcars because ASG declined to pay for it, Ferguson said. She said the college removed two cars from its motor pool, bringing the total number to eight, and lowered the amount it was spending on its New York Times subscription.

“It’s coming from a combination of different dollars that were already expensed somewhere else,” Ferguson said. “Hopefully we won’t have to pay anything.”

According to the Office of Public Safety’s website, the cost to rent a car from the college’s motor pool is 54 cents per mile or $10 per day, whichever is greater, and all community members using the vehicles have to have a Gator License. The cost per mile increases for minivans and 12- to 15-passenger vans.

Ferguson said she believes one benefit the Zipcar program has—as opposed to the college motor pool—is that the program is open to students, faculty and Meadville community members, and the process for renting a Zipcar is easier.

“You had to sit through a course, and then go on the road with safety officers, so it could be two weeks before you actually got your [Gator] License,” Ferguson said. “Whereas most students have a license, so all you have to do with Zipcar is pay $15 and then submit whatever it is they request.”

In addition to the minimum monthly revenue, the contract also sets stipulations for how Allegheny markets Zipcar. It states that the college must use the company’s “standard marketing materials.”

In marketing the program, the contract says the college must make attempts to ensure media articles about Zipcar’s affiliation with Allegheny be approved by the company.

“College agrees to use best efforts to notify Zipcar at least one week in advance of a written article, television story, or other third party publication being released in which College has discussed its car sharing program and/or Zipcar, shall provide Zipcar with a copy of the publication at least one week before its release, and shall use best efforts to have the publisher make such modifications as Zipcar may reasonably request,” the contract says.

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, The Campus stated Kimberly Ferguson asked ASG to pay for Zipcar. Ferguson asked ASG to pay for 50 percent of the potential fees for Zipcar. The article referred to a contract between Zipcar and the college. That contract is not the final contract and may not reflect the standing agreement between Zipcar and the college. Alexia Porche said “50 to 60 percent” of students have a car on campus. As of the 2015-16 academic year, 860 students had parking passes out of “around 1950” total students, according to Ferguson. That amounts to approximately 44.1 percent of students having parking passes. Updated Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, at 9:57 p.m.